Maize grain contamination with aflatoxin from Aspergillus flavus (A. flavus) is a serious health hazard to animals and humans. To map the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with resistance to A. flavus, we employed a powerful approach that differs from previous methods in one important way: it combines the advantages of the genome-wide association analysis (GWAS) and traditional linkage mapping analysis. Linkage mapping was performed using 228 recombinant inbred lines (RILs), and a highly significant QTL that affected aflatoxin accumulation, qAA8, was mapped. This QTL spanned approximately 7 centi-Morgan (cM) on chromosome 8. The confidence interval was too large for positional cloning of the causal gene. To refine this QTL, GWAS was performed with 558,629 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an association population comprising 437 maize inbred lines. Twenty-five significantly associated SNPs were identified, most of which co-localised with qAA8 and explained 6.7% to 26.8% of the phenotypic variation observed. Based on the rapid linkage disequilibrium (LD) and the high density of SNPs in the association population, qAA8 was further localised to a smaller genomic region of approximately 1500 bp. A high-resolution map of the qAA8 region will be useful towards a marker-assisted selection (MAS) of A. flavus resistance and a characterisation of the causal gene.
Keywords: Aspergillus flavus (A. flavus); genome-wide association analysis (GWAS); linkage mapping; maize; molecular marker; quantitative trait locus (QTL); recombinant inbred line (RIL).